Posted on Tuesday, October 22nd, 2019 by Josh Spiegel
(Revisiting the Renaissance is a bi-weekly series in which Josh Spiegel looks back at the history and making of the 13 films of the Disney Renaissance, released between 1986 and 1999. In today’s final column, he discusses the 1999 film Fantasia 2000.)
Ambition is the great historical throughline of the Walt Disney Animation Studios. The notion of making a feature-length animated film was, in the early 1930s, seen as folly by many critics. Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, of course, proved that notion wrong. A few years later, though, the notion of making a feature-length animated film comprised of short films scored to various pieces of classical music was seen as a much larger folly. Many of the films Disney released during Walt Disney’s lifetime — many more than people today may realize — were seen as, at best, ambitious failures upon their initial release.
One of those ambitious failures, one of the few that deserves the categorization, was The Black Cauldron. It was the ignominious end of a dark era of Disney animation, but an ambitious film nonetheless. The Black Cauldron was an expensive attempt to marry classic animation with a more male-driven story aimed at teenagers, flopping painfully at the box office. The Disney Renaissance followed, with films that largely married ambition and success. But all good things come to an end, and so this era did with another ambitious, expensive film that has slowly gained appreciation over time.
How fitting it is that the Renaissance concluded with Fantasia 2000.